#F1 Forensics : Mercedes plays hide n seek with opponents

Brought to you by TheJudge13 technical analyst: Lorenzo De Luca

Mercedes plays hide and seek with the opponents

The Singapore Grand Prix is one of the toughest races of the season and gave us some interesting hints for the remainder of the season. Hamilton won with ease, despite the Safety Car and has annulled the gap he built during the first part of the season.

As we’ll see later, Mercedes proved once again, that the gap to be bridged may be much bigger than we originally thought . Behind Hamilton, we saw (not by chance) both Red Bulls, which thanks to the track layout delivered a very good performance for both drivers.

Off the podium were Ferrari, which after having delivered a good performance on Saturday, were unable to compete on Sunday with Red Bull yet again. Te Williams teams performance was also interesting, which now becomes a strong candidate for the third place in the overall rankings.

The Marina Bay circuit has a very twisty layout with twenty-three corners, most of them at 90° degrees that needs to be faced with lower gears. This feature combined with the very short straights, force teams to choose a very high downforce setup, the same level of load we would have in Monaco or Budapest. So downforce and traction become the key to deliver a good performance.

Race pace chart + stints average times :


Mercedes 18kg lighter and 60hp morepowerful

As it has been said before, the Mercedes gap could well be much bigger than previously thought. Taking only into account just the laps after the safety car, we can see that Mercedes has a gap (on the race pace) of about 1.7s! Almost two seconds, which means a really huge advantage for this era of F1. Where does this advantage comes from ?

According to latest rumors, the Mercedes W05, not only has a more powerful power unit ( about 50/60hp ), but also an advantage of being 18Kg lighter than the opposition. (which translates to at least three tenths advantage per lap). The secret was to perfectly fit the power unit with the chassis and the cooling system, the result was an efficient (aerodynamically speaking) car, with more power available.

Mercedes power unit layout :


And in Singapore, Mercedes limited itself to using the same package used in Budapest, apart from a slightly revised monkey seat

Mercedes new monkey seat :


The new one differs with a double upper element, in order to increase the vertical load which was crucial for this race. The gap shown so far from Mercedes is likely to remain the same for the next seasons. Ferrari, Renault and Honda cannot fail next years project, it will be their last chance (due to freezing rules) to bridge at least part of the gap as Aldo Costa revealed that their 2015 power unit will be 70hp more powerful.

Red Bull nonstop development

It should have been one of their best chances to beat the Mercedes, the track layout which requires downforce and traction would have highlighted the RB10 skills, capable to carry speed as much as possible through the corners so to compensate the lack of power, which wouldn’t have been crucial on this track though. In the attempt to try to catch the Mercedes, Red Bull introduced a new front wing

Red Bull front wing :


Which is a slightly revised version of that used in Budapest thanks to the 3rd upperflap now being much bigger. In order to exploit all the RB10 major features, it also introduced a new nosecone (5th of the season!)

Red Bull new nosecone :


This new nose, features a bigger bulge on its underside, which helps to “move forward” the downforce balance, which is crucial to have for a more responsive car into the chicanes and generally when entering the corners.

 Ferrari focused only on 2015

Ferrari also used the same package introduced in Budapest as admitted by Pat Fry. The development sources are now fully focused on the 2015 project (codename 666), although improvements have been seen, the F14-T cannot yet compete with Mercedes or Red Bull.

The next season will be crucial, Ferrari not only have to fix the mistakes made during the development of the 059/3 (bigger turbine, oil tank between chassis and power unit, and maybe an air to air heat exchanger) , but also have to work a lot on the suspension system (which has basically been confirmed to being used a push rod layout) and most of all on the aerodynamics. The gap from Mercedes at the moment is quite big (1s gap on the race pace, over 2s on qualifying lap), recovery will take much more time than everyone expected.

Williams, the final third place is now closer

Williams delivered a good performance in Singapore despite the track layout not being ideal for the FW36. In Singapore we saw the engine cover with louvres on the spine

Williams engine cover :


Which helps preventing the formation of vortex, hence the airflow that goes towards the rear wing increases its efficiency.

Also new was the rear brake duct, with its aim being not only to cool down the brake pad and disk, but also to create downforce

Williams brake duct :


Indeed as you can see the brake duct take the shape of a flap, actually acting as a little wing to create more downforce.

There were updates on the Force India and they brought a new front wing and rear diffuser, the front wing differs with a new endplate

Force India front wing :


These manage the outwash in a different way and the little flap helps to increase the downforce.

The new rear diffuser is inspired by Red Bull, for its cut-outs placed on the fins of the diffuser which was slightly revised as also were the gurney flap at the outer edges.

Force India rear diffuser :


Big updates for Sauber too, the Swiss team introduced a new high downforce front wing with a different design

Sauber front wing :


The new one has a bigger flap on the endplate and a bigger endplate “floor”

Also new was the engine cover, which now has a more lengthened terminal side pods area to increase the diffuser efficiency and a new development was the spine design to increase the efficiency of the airflow towards the rear wing.



46 responses to “#F1 Forensics : Mercedes plays hide n seek with opponents

  1. So if the rumours are to be believed that the Mercs currently have a 80-100 bhp more than its rivals, well this news should really scare the crap out of them.

    • And that is why you can not think that lewis his race was nearly as good as schumi in Hungary 98. 2 sec per lap is an enormous advantage. The mercedes is just better, by far, than any of its opponents.

      • So he losses points because he has a car that his 2sec a lap faster than anyone elses? You’re looking at that, I’m looking at the situation he was in.

        If he wasn’t able to do that stint, the likelihood was, he’d come back out probably in 7th at best and would then need to overtake 6 cars to win the race. We’ve already seen in Hungary, that getting past Alonso is not such an easy thing to do. Also he was potentially racing the clock and on tyres that many people weren’t sure could do 12 laps and to do it at that pace as well, there was also the possibility that they’d probably only do 9-10 laps at that pace, hence the nervy radio messages between him and his engineer.

        Schummi also had an advantage as well and that’s refuelling and tyres that were more durable than what they’ve got now. let’s not forget, that Mika’s Mclaren had problems of its own which played a part in the outcome as well.

        But like I said when I made the comment, that’s my opinion, you can disagree, but you can’t tell me I’m wrong, because I’m looking at the whole situation, you’re looking at the car and it’s advantage over the others. In the end, he still had to ring the neck of that beast to get the time he needed.

        • Fortis there are times you are your own worst enemy. We all, and I mean we ALL know your blind love of Lewis Hamilton. That’s fine, there’s a reason everyone if called a fan, it comes from the word fanatic.In Italy, the Tifosi actually originates from the Latin for Typhoid.. go figure.

          I’m not sure where you have compared his drive to one of the great drives in history, and to be fair I’m not going to go looking but some things have to be pointed out.

          1) Yes MSC had tyre stop etc but he and the team needed to stop an extra time because initially he was behind both Mclarens and the only way to beat them was inspired strategy. Strangely enough Mclaren also had tyre changes… as did Lewis now.

          2) The 1998 Mclaren was a dominant design on Bridgestone rubber. The Ferrari was not in the same league, and shoed with Goodyear. That was a massive difference.

          3) When Mika Hakkinen suffered problems during the race, Schumacher was already in the lead and on his way to victory. In similar style to when Alonso won in Valencia in 2012 and people claim it was because Vettel and RoGro had stopped. Vettel yes but Alonso had passed RoGro already..

          4) Lewis was on tyres, whatever their age, that were accepted to be 2.6 seconds a lap quicker than the soft. They also crucially warmed up quicker.

          It was a good drive but it doesn’t compare to any of Hamilton’s own truly great drives so lets take those blinkers off..

          • Link Below Carlo:


            Original comment starts with:

            “Lewis Hamilton. 15 laps 25+s over 2nd place man Seb. That stint was reminiscent of Schumi in Hungary 98 and Seb last season.”

            It’s well worth a read of the string that follows on from the original post, if you’re interested in laughing so voraciously that you cause potentially permanent damage to vital organs.

          • Carlo i’m fully aware of all that you have said, in my original comment, i said it was reminiscent of what Schummi did in 98, i wasn’t saying it was of the same calibre. I’m not going to go into the direct comparison of which car had what advantage/disadvantage, I’m looking at the situation and what both drivers needed to do to win the race, that was the point i was trying to make, but everyone took it as me saying it was in the same league. I really can’t see what’s the big deal if i make a direct comparison.

            I’m not sure the Mclaren was as dominate as you say it was, because at seasons end, it was 8-6 win in favour of Mika and would’ve been closer had it not been for the incident at Spa.

          • @SISsy…..

            You see what Carlo did, he offered a well reasoned counter argument, you on the other hand, continued with your usual childish replies.

          • Fortis, as a historian and editor for the site if I can’t bring reasoned logic to the table we’d be in trouble ! 😳
            As to comparative performance between Mika and Schumi, just look at what their team mates won that year. Schumacher was inspired

          • @Sortits

            I’m sorry, but just to clarify, are *you* actually suggesting to another the benefits of thoughtful reasoning and logic in responding to an opinion?

            I think I just saw a pig fly bye…!

            You can try to detach yourself from your posts yesterday all you like, rearrange the wording now etc, but your placement of Hamilton at Singapore along side Schumi at Hungary or Senna Donington or Fangio Germany undermines the very, very core of suggesting others be “reasoned”.

            There, there… It’ll all be ok, one day…


    • Maybe not 80/100Hp , let’s say 50/60 hp at the moment, but the rumors speaks that next year Mercedes Pu already is 50hp powerful than the current one. But it’s not just amatter of hp. It’s the integration of chassis-PU-cooling system the key to win.

      If you ask my opinion, Mercedes has everything to win with ease until 2020, unless FIA does not change the current rules about PU homologation

  2. If Mercedes increase 40-80 bhp and Renault increase 100 – 120 bhp (I think they have more room for it), we will have a great fight next year.

  3. Hi LdL, been trying to make sense of the weighting in appendix 4 of the tech regs. I’m a bit confused by the figures which say that 48% of modifications allowed versus complete weighted PU, and how that relates to the fact that only 5 items are frozen and 8% of the PU is frozen. It may not be possible to explain it, but if you could I would appreciate it.

    I’m wondering also if you think Ferrari might be getting some overseas help from Haas, prior to their “official” entry (should it happen). Just curious.

    • About Haas and Ferrari , the only help I can see is testing maybe different parts on the car, as it happens now between Red Bull-Toro Rosso (these latter will share the same Pu displacement elements, in addition to gearbox and suspension system) , if Ferrari and Haas could do the same, then Maranello could take a bit of advantage from the partnership with Haas.

      About the tech regulation could you proide a link please? 🙂

      • Yes, Haas has a state of the art wind tunnel and I could absolutely see it being artfully used next year, especially in light of the fact that Merc’s biggest advantage is it’s integration.

        As far as the link goes, http://www.fia.com/sport/championships/regulations/formula-1-world-championship?f%5B0%5D=field_regulation_category%3A82

        Appendix 4 is in the 2014 Tech regs and is at the end of the entire document. I could try and post an image, but chrome no longer provides a link to the page, instead it uses an extension to open pdf. I will post, but suspect it wont work.


        • Ok I think I got it , you have to look at the table above the one you are talking about, there you can see the cost in points of each element on which it is possible to act (for 2015 32, which means 48% of the total) , also there are some black cells, which represent the items on wich will be impossible to act . Hope to have clarified a bit

  4. Thanks, nice write up.

    In regards to Mercedes advantage.
    I haven’t seen a good lap time breakdown, and you don’t have any data for Nico, but based simply on comparison, I would like to point out that on Nico’s only stint, he passed Chilton, and was keeping pace with Erickson.

    The car was up and down-shifting two gears at a time, and he was running without DRS, and the MGU-K. So he was at least 160 hp down, and pacing the backmarkers. Based on that, Hamiltons pace after the safety car, and every other bloody race this year, I think a 60 HP advantage is conservative. 100 would not surprise me at this point.

    Even Button made a comment on how fast the Williams cars were in a straight line. You could hear the sound of defeat in his voice.

    I have been saying since the first pictures came out of the Merc engine, that they have done something brilliant.
    They have probably designed the back half, of each section of the turbo housing, to be part of the block. Not only would this cut the weight of the turbo, it would also allow the turbo and all of its bearings, to be lubricated and cooled from within the engine block. It would remove at least 2 hydraulic and cooling pumps, plus all of their associated plumbing.
    Since about the only thing in the regulations that can’t be changed for next year is the block, there would be no way for anyone duplicate it.

    So yeah, Mercedes might be open to lifting the homologation rules for everyone, why not? As long as the only thing that can’t be changed remains the engine block, change turbo’s to your hearts content everybody.

    Just my theory.

    And I am aware of the negatives associated with building the Power Unit this way, I just think that they can be overcome.

    • A correction, one company that could copy this PU design is Honda.
      I consider Mclaren the only real threat to Mercedes next year, for that reason alone.

      • Are we sure Honda could? Maybe so, but Mercedes would have allowed this? Does Mclaren have the same PU as Mercedes and Williams ? Obviosuly just conspiracy theory 😉

        Honda has a huge budget and technology to comeback in F1 and start winning since the 1st year.

        About the Mercedes PU, as I said many times, it’s not just a matter of hp, I think it’s also about how efficient their hybrid system is, how well it is integrated within the chassis unlike Renault and Ferrari.

        Ps. I like your theory, I do agree

        • I guess you could say I have my doubts that Mclaren are being supplied with the exact same spec engine and software as Williams are. I know the rules say that it must be, but logic dictates that there is no way Mercedes would give all their secrets to Mclaren, just so Mclaren can give them all to Honda.

          That’s a terrible business decision, I don’t care what the rules say in F1.
          So yes, I have a little conspiracy theory in me as far as that goes.
          I just have a different name for it, its called reality.

          I agree with you that the advantages Merc have are not all about the ICE/turbo. It is indeed the whole package, including the hybrid system.

          As far as Honda is concerned, can they build the equal or better to Mercedes? Of course they can, it just takes a sh*t-ton of money, Mercedes level money, and Honda has that.
          I’m not saying it is going to come out of the box bullet-proof, but I would bet over the course of the 2015 season, the parts that Honda built will be more reliable than the parts that Mclaren build.

          • That’s why it has been rumoured that the engines are only given to Mclaren on the Thursday and immediately taken back after the race is over as well as Merc having their own people do the instillation.

            Could be wrong, but that’s been the rumour and it would make sense for them to do so as well.

        • “Does Mclaren have the same PU as Mercedes and Williams ? Obviosuly just conspiracy theory”

          Actually I don’t think this is in the realm of conspiracies, but more in the hard realities of life. Just as Lotus/Caterham do not have the same software on the PU (hence NOT the same PU) as RB and RB Jr, so too McLaren is in all likelihood not getting the same technical data needed to optimally run the Merc PU as, for example, Williams does.

          I would suspect that neither McLaren nor Lotus could substantiate or prove anything in a court of law, but to me this stinks of breach of contract..

    • About that ‘first picture…of the Merc engine’; can you point me to it?

      Just done a search for the fabled item, plenty of sites showing same old same old which we all know is wrong…..and I don’t deem the depiction shown in the article, a photo.

  5. Nice write up LDL. No questions but just a small general observation. It’s amusing how far, and ultimately how removed from their actual purpose, brake ducts and brake “cooling” has come. Makes me laugh seeing Williams’ brake duct “cooling” treatment.

  6. Great article, Lorenzo.

    A couple of nitpicks…

    Ferrari (or Alonso at least) were just about competitive with Red Bull here. But for the safety car, Alonso would probably have finished second.

    And while Mercedes clearly had a race pace advantage, judging just how big it was here is a bit difficult on the basis of the post safety car laps because of the tyre differences. The Red Bulls weren’t pushing like Hamilton was, otherwise they would not have made it to the end of the race without suffering the same fate as Bottas – and their soft were the slower tyre.

    • Red Bull weren’t pushing but Ham had also old tires (SuperSoft old tires) , about Alonso, yes maybe he would have finished second, but I’m not sure, the lack of traction and downforce in addition to an higher fuel consumption (without Safety car obviously) could have prevented him to finish on podium anyway

      • Red Bull weren’t pushing but Ham had also old tires (SuperSoft old tires
        Vettel pitted a lap before Hamilton for his third stint, and had to do nine laps more than the Merc’s supersofts, so I think the point stands. Also, it’s likely that Ricciardo could have gone a bit quicker (especially as he had a couple less laps to eke out on his tyres), had he not been stuck behind Vettel.

        As I said, I’ve no doubt Merc were considerably faster on race pace, but I don’t think it was as much as 1.7 sec in Singapore (it’s easily been that on tracks more suited to Mercedes).

        Had Alonso matched Hamilton’s strategy (and with the benefit of hindsight, he would have lost nothing doing so, and might just have sneaked past Ricciardo), we’d have a much clearer idea.

        • This is an excellent point and the single reason why in my view the entire debate of the past few days regarding the Mercs being ~2 sec faster than the rest has been ridiculous. Unfortunately, this is a bit symptomatic… the discussions on this site one year ago were superior compared to the trench warfare we have the privilege of reading these days. Seeing the fanboy drama, the ad-hominem attacks, and the unsubstantiated claims makes me yearn for TJ13 in ’13. 🙁

          In summary: thanks for making a balanced, objective point that should have been made in the very first post.

          • (Not to say anything bad about Lorenzo’s piece by the way, which despite overlooking the tyre strategy is well-written as always!)

          • Hmm, but isn’t this the point? Vettel and Hamilton were on different tires, and Ham was on the faster tire that was deemed by Pirelli ~2-2.5sec faster. Sure, Hamilton made the tire last, but I haven’t seen other drivers catastrophically going off the cliff in the SuperSoft. And sure Hamilton had the quickest package, but it seems to me that the tire differential at best muddies up the observed “dominance”.

            From qualifying it was clear that Merc felt a sting (especially when seeing 5th and 6th after the banker runs), and I’m not entirely sure that the ~1.7sec advantage after the SC is genuine car pace. Part was tires, part was Hamilton’s acrobatics, part was genuine car pace.

            This situation actually eerily recalled Seb’s performance in Singapore in similar circumstances last year or so, when after a SC (I think) he went 2-3sec per lap faster; then no one went to argue that RB was 2.5sec faster than the rest of the field. From memory, Seb was also on the faster tire and with the blown technology in a slow track perfectly suited for it, and he managed to make the advantage stick.

          • Obviously there are a couple of factors that needs to be taken into account, being the Marina Bay a street circuit track it’s not really representative to judge cars behaviour or race pace gap between different cars. So it tends to flatten out the real gap between cars.

            If we look at the all 2014 qualifying session, or races so far, we could easily say that Mercedes has over 1s advantage on 2nd fastest car on the grid (Red Bull) and almost 2s on the 3rd (Ferrari).

            So saying that Mercedes has a huge gap, even bigger that some may thoughts, is not wrong.

          • Actually, it’s not very clear how durable the prime was relative to the option in Singapore.

            Hamilton managed 26 laps on the option (including 8 under the safety car), but the second half of that stint was maximum attack all the way.

            The (significantly slower) prime doesn’t seem to have been all that much more durable. The most anyone got out of it was Massa’s 38 laps (also including the safety car laps), but that was managed “driving like his granny”; Bottas’ tyres fell apart a lap earlier.
            No one ran a long stint really pushing the tyre.

            Vettel had to do 35 laps on his final stint. No way was he pushing (as his radio messages made very clear).

            Hamilton’s fastest lap (on the option) was just after the safety car on lap 39. The Torro Rossos got within 1.3 and 1.5 seconds of that on new primes on laps 45 and 48 respectively (and the Torro Rosso was around 1.5 sec slower than the Red Bull in qualifying).

            Bottom line – I don’t think there was any very good evidence as to just how big the gap in race pace was.

  7. Great write-up Lorenzo, I always look forward to your insightful articles as there is always so much to learn from them. *Noob* question : even if, as you say, Mercedes have fitted everything in an optimal way, what is it that other teams were forced to do that resulted in bringing the extra 18 kg (which I think is absolutely gigantic by the way) ? More stuff to connect MGU parts ?

    • Hi KimKas,

      The advantage of being 18Kg lightweight come from (at least part of it) from have made a brilliant project during design phase, having placed the intercooler right into the chassis, smaller exhaust manifolds, shorter wirings, and obviously other stuff that we can’t know allowed them to build a lightweight car. You just need to look at a pic of the Mercedes PU and comparing it with the Renault or Ferrari one, you’ll see how incredibly small and neat the PU106 is.

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